No, Lawyers, the Sky Isn’t Falling (Not If You’re Looking Up, Anyway)

by JD Supra Perspectives
Contact

...innovation is critical to the survival of the legal profession, just like it is to every other profession.

360,000 hours is a lot of time. It’s 15,000 days, more than 2,100 weeks, more than 40 years. And – in terms that lawyers and legal professionals understand – it’s $180 million at an average billing rate of $500. Why does it matter? Because that’s the amount of lawyer time that JP Morgan claims it can replace each year with its new COIN (for Contract Intelligence) artificial intelligence software, which, explains Hugh Son at Bloomberg, “does the mind-numbing job of interpreting commercial-loan agreements.” 

It’s a significant development, and one that all lawyers – not just banking & finance practitioners, but everyone – should understand. Assuming it works, this is a major step forward for the “replacing workers with robots” machine that has devastated other industries, and any lawyer and law firm that doesn’t see it as a sign of things to come is only fooling themselves. 

But the lessons aren’t that the sky is falling and that lawyers will soon become obsolete … that law firms need to invest millions in A.I. to avoid being left out in the cold … that we all need to bow down to our robot overlords, who will decide whether to take this or that case to trial, whether to hire 15 or 25 new associates in the class of 2035, whether to open an office in Mumbai or Moscow, whether to invest time and money filling out the Chambers & Partners listings. 

The real lesson is that innovation is critical to the survival of the legal profession, just like it is to every other profession. The real lesson is that lawyers cannot continue to do things the exact same way they’ve always done things because that’s what has worked so far.

The real lesson is that lawyers and their firms have to figure out what’s important to each client – for JP Morgan, it’s automating an automatable process (you don’t really think their plan is merely to eliminate lawyer time, do you?) – and how they can adapt to these objectives.

Fortunately, that lesson is not completely foreign to lawyers and firms. You’ve done this before. You’ve incurred the costs of replacing typewriters with desktop computers without driving partners out the door in search of bigger paychecks. You’ve invented creative billing arrangements that satisfy ever-more-stringent client requirements. You’ve moved back-office personnel to Nashville and Belfast and Manila and Manchester. You regularly offer new services to meet client needs, expand into new practices and geographies, show non-performing lawyers and staff and entire practices the door. Sure, change is hard. But it is intrinsically no harder for lawyers than for, say, bankers. 

...[J.P. Morgan's automation] gives lawyers an opening to move away from billing their clients for the hours they spend.

No, the sky isn’t falling for lawyers. On the contrary: JP Morgan’s automation of the analysis and interpretation of commercial-loan agreements gives lawyers an opening to move away from billing their clients for the hours they spend. From time as a measure of value. From effort-based measurement to results-based measurement. Of course it won’t be easy and of course the stakes are high. But this warning shot over the bow presents a great opportunity for lawyers and firms to rethink the future of the services they provide clients – not tomorrow’s future or that of next year or even the year after that, but the one in which we’ll find ourselves five and ten years from now – so that they can position their firms to be one of the few that succeed. 

Embracing change is likely to be one of the hardest things you ever do. But somebody’s going to be successful doing it, and it might as well be you.

*

[Lance Godard is a practice group and industry team manager at TerraLex. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow his new work on JD Supra.]

Written by:

JD Supra Perspectives
Contact
more
less

JD Supra Perspectives on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.